Samir Randera-Rees

Water Source Areas programme manager, World Wildlife Fund

Young entrepreneur Samir Randera- Rees is an exceptionally talented conservationist and a TV personality as well as Water Source Areas programme manager at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The programme aims to improve the protection and management of South Africa’s strategic water sources — the 8% of this country’s land surface that provides 50% of its water — and in this water-scarce country the importance of this work cannot be overstated.

“People often accuse environmentalists of caring more for animals than for people, but from my experience, you cannot look after the environment without combatting poverty and ensuring that all people live with dignity,” explains Randera-Rees. “I do love animals and nature, but I also love people and have a deep-seated desire to improve lives; I love what I do because I am helping both the environment and people. “Water is this incredible connector that links every facet of nature and society. While my goal is to better protect and manage our water source areas, the solutions we come up with are incredibly varied and include everything from integrating cutting-edge science to lobbying government, improving rural livelihoods and legal protection and management of these areas. His app, called Whispers of the Wild, is an audio and visual guide to African wildlife.

“It is a game ranger on your phone, which helps you appreciate and understand wildlife.” He is now developing an app for an elite safari company. Randera-Rees has also developed a conservation curriculum for the Youth Conservation Programme, which targets unemployed youth living adjacent to protected areas, designed to give them an appreciation of the role nature plays in their lives and opportunities in the Green Economy. The programme has been successfully rolled out in six provinces so far, and is set to be integrated into the People and Parks programme. He has a double master’s in applied ecology and conservation through the EU Erasmus Mundus scholarship programme.

“I used to think that my interest in the environment was just a hobby, but when I started taking courses in environmental science at UCT, it opened my eyes to what a terrible state our environment is in. “I realised that if people like me with passion and ambition do not dedicate their lives to the environment, then it doesn’t stand a chance. That was when I decided that my career lay in conservation. My longterm goal is to be a leader in the conservation sector and use my skills and influence to achieve sustainable, positive change.”

— Rebecca Haynes